La Paz is a popular eco-tourist resort on the east coast of Baja California Sur in Mexico. It is has a semi-arid climate, 300 days of sunshine annually as well as the Sea of Cortez also known as the worlds aquarium. Main attractions for Eco-Tourism in the area of La Paz include the following;
1) The Malecon, a wide sidewalk on the waterfront, with beaches, sculptures, tourist pier, marinas, hotels, restaurants and unimpeded sunsets.
2) El Coromuel Aquatic Park located just past the Malecon was awarded a Blue Flag, the worlds leading Eco-Label in 2016,
3) The Espiritu Santu island group, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is about 3 miles off the coast of La Paz that offers world class kayaking, snorkeling, diving, a variety of marine life to view such as sea lion colonies, in addition to, unique flora and fauna. It is also home to Ensenada Grande considered to be one of most beautiful beaches in the world.
4) La Ventana, another beach close to La Paz on the sea of cortez, offers world class kiteboarding, windsurfing and international tournament events.
5) The Balandra and Tecolote Beaches are about 15 miles from La Paz and are only separated by a protected area consisting of small mountains, sand dunes, mangroves and lagoons. Balandra has clear, calm and shallow water ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It is also considered to be the best beach in La Paz. Next door, Tecolote Beach features camping, restaurants, tiki bar and beach rental gear.
Mexico is one of the top 5 countries in the world in terms of ecological diversity and is home to the Paricutin Volcano that is also one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. This is the result of Mexico’s topography which varies significantly and its geographic situation which places it between distinct eco-zones. There are many ways to enjoy these natural wonders found in Mexico including white water rafting, scuba diving, sailing, trekking, mountain climbing, bird watching, biking and a variety of other eco-activities. Naturally, there is some disagreement about which of mexico’s natural wonders are the best, so researchers have conducted surveys to determine which of these is most popular. Copper canyon was determined to be the most popular followed by Sumidero Canyon, the butterfly reserves and the meso american barrier reef..
El Requeson beach is found in the bay of concepcion and is part of the sea of cortez. Great location for camping, kayaking and snorkeling.
Pena Bernal the worlds 2nd largest monliths in the village of Bernal
Grutas del Mamut, one of the great natural treasures of mexico is the extensive network of caves to explore
Sumidero Canon is one of the most popular natural wonders in mexico and was carved out by the Grijala River seen here. In some places the ealls are as high as 1000 ft and its 13 kilometers long. There are thirteen rapids, 5 waterfalls, 3 beaches and 2 freshwater springs.
Playa Ensenada Grande, Espirito Santo,a unesco world heritage site
Blue Agave plants in the State of Jalisco. A cultivated eco-system and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan where most all the monarch’s butterflies of north american migrate annually. It is also a unesco world heritage site
There are over 7000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula. Tourist and locals alike enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the pools of water created by underground rivers
Isla Cozumel one of the best scuba diving locations in the world found in the midst of the meso american reef system.If your not into scuba diving than try this glass bottom boat
Akumel, Maya Riviera, the meso american reef system is a short swim for this lagoon.
One of two volcanos found in Colima of Jalisco. This one seen in the distant background is called El Fuego and is the most active volcano in Mexico
Cooper Canyon has 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Madres. It is larger and deeper than the grand canyon of Arizona.
Sea Lion Colony found near isla Espirito Santo, Sea of Cortez
The Sierra Laguna’s is a Unesco Global Biosphere Reserve found in Baja California Sur
Sian Ka’an, entrance to the primary mangrove chanel leading into one of the worlds unesco natural heritage sites.
There are 5 cascading waterfalls with on each side of the river that climbs to the top El Chiflon wateralls
a look downstream the from 250 drop from the Velo de Novia falls.
The Punta Venado EcoPark is about a 10 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. Its a little over 2000 acres with 2.5 miles of beach on the Caribbean coastline. The outdoor adventure activities in this park include horseback riding, atv trails, mountain biking and water sports such as kiteboarding and snorkeling. Mountain bike trails are rated according to difficulty and cut through dense jungle where there’s a good chance of wildlife encounters with spider monkeys, deer or a variety of other small mammals as you ride. Whenever you get hot or tired and need a break from biking, you can always stop at one of the cenotes found near several of the trails and take a refreshing dip in these natural pools of underground water. Another way to relax and cool off at the end of the day is to take the trail towards the park’s beach club where you’ll find a restaurant, bar, and the caribbean ocean.
Horseback riders leaving the stables and heading to the jungle trails
the bike trail map
one of the easier jungle trails which has been graded. the more difficult trails are not graded and can be rough
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, a top ten travelers choice beach in the Caribbean
Mexico has about 6,000 miles of coastline and over 450 beaches with a variety of physical characteristics. These range from desert to tropical environments but while it may be easy to classify beaches according to these objective characteristics, the choice of which beach resort is best for a vacation is much more subjective. A quick internet search will turn up several sites that rate beaches in Mexico by a variety of different criteria but there is only one objective system that rates beaches by strict criteria applied the world over and that site can be found at http://www.blueflag.org. Their system for evaluating beaches started in France around 1985 and is now run by the European Foundation for Environmental Education. In general, the Blue Flag criteria used to determine which beaches deserve to be awarded are water quality, safety, services, environmental management and information. As of now, there are 5 beaches that have earned the blue flag award in Mexico. Coincidently, all five of these beaches are also on the list of the best beaches in Mexico as published by websites such as Travelers Choice and magazines such as U.S News and Travel that use tourist opinions or travel writers opinions to rate beaches. So, if finding the best beach is a top priority on your next vacation, it comes down to a decision about the intangibles such as idyllic versus the tangibles such as environmental information signs. In the photo essay below there is a photo of Playa Delfines, a blue flag awarded beach, as well as several photos of beaches in Tulum which Travelers Choice rates as the best in Mexico. All other beach photos below are highly rated by one or more survey about best beaches in Mexico.
Playa Delfines, a blueflag awarded beach in Cancun
Akumal, one of traveler’s choices top 10 beach pics in mexico
Playa Akumal, a top choice for snorkeling and protected area for turtle nesting .
Balandra Beach, a protected biospheres and top ten travelers choice pic for best beach in Mexico
Tulum Beaches, Maya Riviera, U.S. News and Travel rates Tulum beaches as the best in Mexico
Another look at Tulum’s Beaches, Maya Riviera
Playa Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, only coral reefs for scuba divers and snorkeling in this area
El Requeson Playa, Bahia Concepcion, Baja California, Best RV camping on the transpeninsular hwy. Baja California Sur
Gold Coast, Mazatland, U.S. News and Travel rates Mazatland beaches in Mexico’s top 10
La Ventana Beach, Baja California Sur, Best kiteboarding in mexico
Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta, One of PV’s best beaches
Las Palmas Beach, Todos Santos, Baja California, Best Secluded Beach in Todos Santos
Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez, One of the top 12 beaches in the world
Mamita’s Beach, Playa del Carmen, U.S. News and Travel rates Playa del Carmen as the best apres beach town in Mexico
Los Cerritos Beach, Los Cabos, Baja California, One of cabo’s best beaches
El Corumel, La Paz, Baja, sea of cortez, best sunset beach in the area
Playa Lanchero, Isla Mujers, Another excellent beach a few miles away playa norte
Akumal, or place of the turtle in Mayan, is a small americanized beach community located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is not only a nesting ground for sea turtles but home to Centro Ecological de Akumal which is dedicated to sea turtle protection, environmental marine research, education and sustainable tourism development. The bay of Akumal is sheltered from waves so conditions for turtles and snorkelers alike are arguably the best that can be found within the Maya riviera. ln addition to the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles that call Akumal home; snorkelers can expect to see a variety of colorful tropical fish and coral thanks to the clear and calm waters of this bay. The Yalku lagoon, found at the north end of the Akumal, is another ideal location for snorkeling. This happens to be a unique environment where fresh waters from the yucatan’s underground system merges with the caribbean sea to form a lagoon sheltered from waves. For additional details and images, please go to the photo essay below.
located at the entrance to this seaside resort, town meetings and other local events take place here
vacation rental homes overlooking akumal bay
ceramic arts and other mayan craft work on sale just behind akumal beach
a smooth white sand beach with palm trees
group or individual snorkeling lessons are available at akumal beach
a meeting place with information for divers
Equipment rentals and ticket sales for snorkeling tours
art and craft work for sale, just off the beach
are both in the same building
north end of akumal where fresh water from the yucatan blends with the caribean
a sheltered lagoon with calm, clear water and lots of tropical fish
this park has a variety of sculptures to see as you walk along a path around the lagoon
partially hidden behind palm trees is this tiki style restaurant and bar located on half moon bay between akumal beach and Yal ku lagoon
Cozumel is the largest of Mexico’s islands measuring 53 km by 14km and is found in the Caribbean Sea about 1 hour away from Playa del Carmen on the passenger ferries which make frequent trips on a daily basis. Although, there are a variety of things to do once you get to Cozumel the main attraction has always been snorkeling and scuba diving to experience the great meso american reef system. One travel guide book has a list of 86 attractions around Cozumel but 43 of them involve different scuba diving or snorkeling locations. Other things to do while on the island are related to either cultural activities, parks or beach clubs.
Three types of beaches can be found around this island and they will be either rocky, smooth white sand or hybrids. According to people in the know, rocky beaches are a indication of good snorkeling opportunities off shore and they are plentiful. The smooth white sand beaches are not as common as the rocky type but they can be found at the northern or southern tips of the island’s western shores such as Playa San Francisco near Punta Sur. Finally, there is the hybrid variety where sand has been brought in to build a beach on top of the limestone croppings that are the norm around Cozumel.. One such man made beach is found at the Chankannab National Park to the south of town.
At the end of the day, most people head for San Miguel to enjoy happy hour, dinner or other cultural activites. This is the only city on the island and it has a population of over 75,000 people according to the last count. One of the main attractions here is the pedestrian only Plaza Centro where you can find restaurants, shops, street artist, cafe’s and nightlife. In the photo gallery below you will find images and more information about Plaza Centro, a few of the beaches as well as some other highlights.
Carlos and Charlie’s
People gathering in the pedestrian only district for happy hour and live entertainment at Woody’s Bar and Grill
Office of Tourism and the clock tower are found here in the pedestrian only area
the beach and a few amenities at this beach club
Just across the road from Chankanaab National Park
a flea market in Centro San Miguel just off Avienda Rafael Melgar the main beach road through town
a view of the beachfront in San Miguel on Avienda Rafael Melgar
also found north of San Miguel only a few miles from the momument.on Avienda Rafael Melgar
this monument is a tribute to the maya civilization that once occupied this island. It is found on the beach road going north from town.
There are quite a few of these but this one is a little north of Plaza Centro on Avienda Rafeal Melgar
One of the locations where cruise ships drop anchor near Plaza Central and Avienda Rafael Melgar
an alternate mode of transportation around town
Jimmy Buffets margaritaville in Central San Miguel between the beach and Avienda Rafael Melgar
Puerto Morales is a small seaside fishing village about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It was not built for tourist and commercial development has been kept to a minimum, so it is still more like a residential community where prices for most everything are lower and the pace much slower than the typical “touristy” resorts. The Great Meso American reef lies just 500 meters off the shores of Puerto Morales and offers a variety of marine life as well as one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. So it should not come as a surprise to say that the main attractions here are fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The largest annual fishing tournament is held in May and offers $80,000 pesos to the winner while scuba diving features coral reef formations, wrecks and schools of colorful fish. Other nearby attractions include the Dr. Alfredo Barrera botanical garden and Crococun Zoo, in addition, the photo gallery below provides a look at some of the sites around the center of town.
one of many boats available for fishing trips
The old lighthouse in front was nearly knocked over by a hurricane years ago but still stands today
a local modeling posing on the boardwalk
A beachfront restaurant in the center of town
This pier is directly in front of the pelican restaurant and is used as a diving and boarding platform
a good place to relax and enjoy the scenery, this boardwalk park is part of the town plaza (zocala) in the center of town between the main pier and pelican’s pier where people relax, enjoy the view and special events
This cafe is just a block from the beach and across from the zocala (town center)
new and used books for sale in both english and spanish languages. Located right next to the cafe
The RV lifestyle in Puerto Morales. Looks like an old school bus conversion in the a psychedelic style of the 60’s
unique architectual design across from the cultural center, It is used a local musuem
it’s a dog day afternoon on the shores of Puerto Morales
The most popular beach in this authentic mexican resort is Mamita’s at the north end of Playa and a block from La Quinta Avenue, the pedestrian only entertainment center of town. Thanks to the amenities offered by Mamita’s s Beach Club and Kool’s adult beach club next door, you don’t need to bring anything with you other than a swim suit to enjoy a day at the beach as illustrated by the following series of images.
Mamita’s Beach Club Bar and Restaurant also serves guest on the beach
Kools Bar and Adult Beach Club is right next door to Mamita’s but is for adults only. They offer many of the same services and amenities as mamita’s beach club
paddleball is a favorite recreational activity at mamita’s
some like to feed seagulls
In addition to the restaurant, the beach club also has a lounge with a sound system and drinks to go.
Here’s the rental kiosk for a variety of water sports equipment such as hobie cats, boogie boards, surf boards etc.
Mamita’s beach is also home to the annual international jazz festival in November. This a look at the crowd.
girls jumping for joy at mamita’s beach
If the ocean is a little to rough or you don’t like salt water, the pool is available for a nominal fee.
lots of people like to walk along the shores of the carribean sea
In Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera, life is a beach and so it is called Playa by most everyone familiar with this area. Up until a few years ago, the main attraction to Playa was the ferry to Isla Cozumel but there has been a dramatic transformation in the past 10 years from portal to what is now one of Mexico’s most popular resorts. Some of this success can be attributed to nearby attractions such as Cancun or Ecaret theme park but Playa’s newly developed amenities and attractions make this resort an appealing destination on its own..
As far as attractions and activities are concerned, the sun, sea and beaches are the most important to consider. There’s plenty of sunshine to go around, the ocean temps are comfortable all year long, and the beaches stretch from one end of town to another. Playa Caribe is one of the main public beaches at the south end of town next to the maritime terminal where ferries to and from Isla Cozumel are located. Amenities at this beach include volleyball nets, several tiki bars, showers and massage tables. On the other side of this terminal you will find Senor Frogs beach which offers similar amenities as detailed by photo on the left, as well as there restaurant and bar.
Other conveniently located attractions include a variety of retail stores, restaurants and bars. The retailer’s directly behind Playa Caribe are for the most part independently owned and operated. Wheras, the retailers directly behind Senor Frog’s are corporate owned speciality stores that are part of the upscale La Fiesta Plaza. As you might expect, there is a considerable difference in the merchandise available at these shops and in the way they operate their business. Suffice to say, that if you are looking for a bargain on products made in Mexico, shop at the independently owned stores as seen in the photo to the right. If you want expensive name brand imports, shop at the Plaza La Fiesta. In addition to the different types of merchandise for sale, it is also interesting to compare the old world approach to retailing practiced by the independent shops versus the contemporary style of retailing at the Plaza La Fiesta.
Likewise, the choice of where to eat includes traditional mexican food served at stands or restaurants just behind Playa Caribe or restaurants like Subway, Haagen Das and Starbucks in the food court at the La Fiesta Plaza. When it’s time for happy hour, however, the choices are easy because all the bars seem to serve the same brands of mexican beer and after a few hours in the sun, they all taste good. Cheers!
This edition of Cancun Highlights features golf courses, restaurants, beaches and marina’s. It’s hard to say which is the best or most popular golf course because opinions usually vary according to individual preferences and skill levels. In any case, there are several top notch 18 hole, par 72 courses within the hotel zone. The longest, at 6,800 yards, is the Iberostar Golf Club, followed by the Cancun Country Club at 6,750 yards.. However, all golfers know that yardage changes from time to time with tee placement, so anyone of the above courses could be longer than the other on a given day. For what it’s worth to all the duffers out there, the Cancun Country Club, designed by Nick Price, is recognized as the only Tournament Players course outside of the United States at this time.
Another popular public beach located in the heart of the Cancun hotel zone is Playa Tortuga. It is not an expansive stretch of beach like Playa Del Fines mentioned in a previous post because it is filled with Tiki bars, open air restaurants, beach oriented retail shops and cafes. The pier in the background of this photo has a bungee jumping tower and is also a launching point for ferries to Isla Mujeres.
Aqua World is also one of Cancun’s top attractions. It is both a marina and business with a fleet of 17 boats offering both tourist and nautical services. For example, there is a jungle tour that takes you through the Nichupte Lagoon mangroves to a secluded snorkeling paradise while another tour offers a lobster dinner cruise on the lagoon at sunset.
Last but not least is the La Habichuela Sunset restaurant. With a reputation for delicious meals, a unique sculpture garden of native flora and mayan theme shows; it has earned it’s rank as one of Cancun’s best restaurants. As the name implies, it is also one of the best places within the hotel zone to watch the sunset over the Nichupte Lagoon.
For those that are not familiar with the history of Cancun, it was just a deserted island 40 years ago that was separated from the mainland by a system of canals and consisted of nothing more than marshes, mangroves, jungles and beaches. In 1969, however, the Cancun development was officially approved and construction began sometime in 1970. The master plan originally called for a hotel zone without permanent residential areas, a residential zone for permanent residents and an international airport. Needless to say, this plan required some very complicated engineering but in the end; the development project was successful.
There are now 72 hotels located in a 17 mile stretch of beach inside the hotel zone with the Caribbean sea on one side and the Nichupte lagoon on the other. Most of these are rated 5 stars, the best rating achievable in Latin America. The first hotel to be built was the Playa Blanca which is now an exclusive adult only hotel now known as the Temptation Spa Resort. Another adult only hotel, Le Blanc Spa Resort , is now the most popular according to Trip Advisor, with Live Agua ranking second in this cateqory. Just across the street is trip advisor’s highest rated shopping mall in Cancun called La Isla. It is unique in that it features a marina at the rear of the complex where boats can be rented, as well as, a canal running through the shopping center that gives it the look and feel of Venice. Also featured in this post is a photo of Playa Del Fines which is the largest and best maintained of the public beaches on this 17 mile stretch of road which is dominated by hotels that limit public access to their beach area as much as possible.
Playa del Carmen is located on the Maya Riviera and has the ambiance of a small beach resort but at the same time it is sophisticated in many ways. Here you will find vistors and shop owners from all over the world, special events such as the Maya Jazz Festival that features music from a variety of cultures, restaurants that serve many different kinds of cuisine
from different countries around the world, specialty retail shops with merchandise from all over mexico and small boutique lodging’s with distinct European styles. Most of the restaurants, cafes, shops, nightlife and other tourist activity are located on a 15 block section of fifth avenue which is limited to pedestrian foot traffic.
There are many other attractions in and around Playa del Carmen. Some of the best beaches in the world can be found in this area along with miles of offshore coral reefs that offer what are just about the most spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving sites anywhere in the world. If the beach or scuba diving are not your cup of tea, than there are several major theme parks near by such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xaman-Ha Avairy. Each offers its own unique blend of outdoor recreational activities. These are just a few of the reasons why Playa del Carmen was selected as the second best destination resort in Mexico for 2012 by travelers choice.
Along the shores of Banderas Bay, there are numerous beaches that are divided into three zones; north of town, in town, and south of town. Four of the most popular beaches south of Puerto Vallarta Central include Mismaloya Beach, Boca Tomatlan, Las Animas and Quimixto. Mismaloya and Boca Tomatlan can be reached by car, bus, or taxi but Las Animas and Quimixto can only be reached by boat or by hiking thru long jungle trails from Boca Tomatlan.
Mismaloya Beach is about 6 miles from the center of town and happens to be where ¨Night of the Iguana¨ starring Richard Burton was filmed in 1963 before the condo´s and hotel´s were constructed. More recently, much of the ¨The Predator¨starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed in the jungle behind Mismaloya. Boca Tomatlan beach is about 10 miles from the center of town and is the last of the south shore beaches which can be reached by car. This beach lies at the the mouth of the Rio Horcones, so besides salt water there are fresh water pools for swimming, restaurants for other kinds of refreshment and water taxi´s for trips to the other beaches not accessible by car. The boat ride from here to Las Animas or Quimixto is only a short distance and relatively inexpensive. At Las Animas, there is an adventure park with zip lines, rope bridges and climbing activities. The main attraction at Quimixto is a 30 meter high waterfall which feeds into a natural pool of pristine mountain water about 15 meters deep and can be reached by horseback or by hiking across several hills and 2 rivers. Both of these beaches offer a variety of restaurants and shops that sell locally made merchandise.
The Balandra Bioshpere is a complex of beaches, hills, dunes, and mangroves on the sea of cortez. It is one of many protected environments in Baja California Sur about 20 kilometers from La Paz, Mexico. The bay of balandra is very shallow with clear, warm water ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It also forms several beaches but the main beach offers palapa´s and barbeque pits, in addition to, campsites.
Bahia Concepcion is located on the East Coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico. The entire bay is a national marine preserve that is reportedly one of the cleanest bay systems in the world and commercial fishing is prohibited. However, it is ideal for anglers, small boats, windsurfers, divers and kayakers. The bay area attracts many visitors from the USA, Canada, and Europe who usually stay in tents, palapa huts or motor homes since motels are few and far between. These photos show just a few of the many beaches in the bay area including Playa El Requeson, Playa El Coyote and Playa Los Cocos.